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Restaurant AI: 9 Surprising Ways Restaurants are Leveraging AI

From facial recognition in grocery stores to chatbots popping up when you shop online, Artificial Intelligence has quickly become a part of our everyday lives.

The power and possibilities of AI have extended to several sectors and have become second nature to many. 

With the food service industry still facing long-term labor shortages, with just one job seeker for every two open positions, can AI provide a new hope to lift QSRs out of this ongoing tight squeeze?

What is restaurant AI?

Restaurant AI is Artificial Intelligence technology that enhances operational efficiency and customer service in your QSR. It involves improving existing processes using AI-powered technology, such as order-taking and burger flipping. 

Restaurant AI is already commonplace in some of the world’s most famous QSRs:

Checkers and Rally’s

Checkers and Rally’s is collaborating with Hi Auto to deploy conversational AI technology in over 350 restaurants across the US. The two companies recently expanded the partnership to include Spanish-speaking technology, helping Checkers and Rally best serve all customers. The Hi Auto solution shows consistent results at over 96% accuracy. 


Through its partnership with Google, Wendy’s has developed its own AI chatbot to take orders at the drive-thru. Dubbed ‘FreshAI,’ the AI technology will take orders with the support of a human employee. The solution is currently live at 4 stores and sometimes achieves 90% accuracy levels.  


McD Tech Labs was acquired by IBM in 2021. Since then, McDonald’s has dipped its toe into AI technology. It trialed voice AI at ten restaurants in Chicago, but there’s a long road ahead before deployment can happen across all 14,000 of its restaurants. 


Domino’s has joined forces with Microsoft to build smarter stores through the use of AI. The pizza chain will turn to Azure OpenAI technology to help its employees streamline the processes of pizza ordering, delivery, and food preparation. 

Global spending on AI

What are the benefits of using restaurant AI?

Here are some of the top benefits of using restaurant AI.

  • Data-driven decisions: Rather than thinking with your head or your heart, use data analytics to guide you with the best decision-making. 
  • Less pressure on employees: The ongoing labor shortage puts your existing staff under pressure, while technology can pick up the slack.  
  • Reduced human error: AI helps you avoid human error that wastes time and money caused by wrong orders or incorrectly prepared items.
  • Operational efficiency: One investment in AI technology can return thousands of hours of fast, efficient, and consistent work. 
  • Speed and convenience: No one wants to get in the way of a hungry diner and their food. 42% of diners say that speed of service is the most critical aspect of a QSR, and solutions like voice AI help you maintain fast and efficient operations. 

9 Ways Restaurants are Leveraging AI

1. Fraud Detection and Security

It’s easy for fraud and theft to fly under the radar, but it’s a more common problem than you might think. 95% of businesses encounter problems with employee theft (internal fraud), and 5% of customers have admitted to leaving without paying the bill (external fraud).

Machine learning and AI algorithms can detect fraud in real time by identifying suspicious transactions, anomalies in transaction data, and data from your POS system. 

For example, US-based restaurant management platform Toast already uses this technology in its POS system.

Voice AI limits fraud as employees don’t influence the actual order taking. 

2. Reduce Food Waste

It’s estimated that over a third of all food produced globally goes to waste, caused by over-preparation, poor inventory management data, and wrong orders. AI helps your QSR collect and analyze sales and inventory data to help you stock only what’s necessary and reduce food waste levels through demand forecasting. 

US-based fast-casual restaurant chain Sweetgreen already uses machine learning algorithms to optimize inventory management by predicting demand and automatically adjusting inventory levels accordingly. 

3. Speed up the Ordering Process at the drive-thru

Speed up the Ordering Process at the drive-thru

Only 10% of QSRs successfully manage to serve customers at the drive-thru in under three minutes. For every extra second that passes by, your customers will become increasingly hungry – and impatient. 

Labor shortages, lower immigration levels, and the upcoming California Minimum Wage Bill are just some of the reasons why hiring more staff isn’t a silver bullet. Instead, conversational AI solutions like Auto can work 24/7 without the need for breaks, helping deliver a consistent ordering experience up to four times faster than human cashiers. 

4. Enhance the In-store Customer Experience

AI can enhance customer experience in-store and behind the scenes. Paper menus are so old-school – now, QSRs are replacing them with digital menu boards. Digital signage can increase brand awareness by over 47% and get over 400% more views than static displays. 

Using AI, you can personalize, customize, and update digital menu boards in real time, helping you catch your customers’ eyes and showcase promotions. For example, you can schedule different menu displays at different times of the day and add QR codes for interactive visuals.

5. Ensure Consistently Good Customer Service and Inclusivity

How can AI help your QSR become more inclusive? Hi Auto recently rolled out Spanish-language drive-thru AI at Checkers and Rally’s, bringing long-anticipated Hispanic inclusivity to the QSR industry and enabling more customers to access their favorite foods. 

AI is always awake, alert, and never distracted, so it’s always ready to deliver exceptional and friendly customer service. Hi Auto successfully completes orders for Lee’s Famous Chicken Recipe with an impressive 95% accuracy rate, and Hi Auto attempts an upsell in 76% of cases.

6. Improve Menu Creativity

Want to keep things fresh in your QSR? Brands like Coca-Cola and Shake Shack have used AI to design new flavors and menu options. AI came up with an exciting and undisclosed flavor of Coke called the Y3000, and Shake Shack rolled out new plant-based menu items designed by AI. 

AI is an excellent tool for keeping customers engaged with your brand online. For example, Dallas-based chain Velvet Taco recently launched the ‘ChatGPTaco,’ a hugely successful new item on their weekly specials menu. 

Y3000 Coke flavor

7. Streamline Food Preparation

Behind the scenes, kitchen departments use AI-powered robots to automate repetitive tasks like frying, flipping burgers, and preparing salads. AI brings a new level of service consistency that far exceeds the capabilities of human staff, and the robots are capable of much more complex tasks than you may expect. 

Domino’s recently launched a pizza delivery robot that zips around with autonomous driving capabilities. 

8. Guarantee Product Perfection/Consistency

Miso Robotics is a leading name in restaurant robotics technology, and its products are a perfect example of how automation is changing food production for the better. The Flippy 2 robot uses AI-powered vision technology and a dextrous arm to manage high volumes of fries. 

Panera Bread uses Miso Robotics’ new automated coffee brewing technology to ensure quality control and boost efficiency. Other brands like Chipotle are also testing Miso Robotics’ automated kitchen assistants for making tortilla chips. 

9. Personalization for Every Customer 

66% of customers expect brands to understand their wants and needs, and delivering personalized marketing communications is only possible with AI. The algorithms analyze customer preferences and ordering history to offer personalized menu suggestions and promotions, which increases customer satisfaction, loyalty, and sales. 

Some personalization strategies include:

  • Facial recognition: AI technology identifies customers’ faces at the drive-thru or in-store. 
  • Location detection: AI detects customers who enter a geographic perimeter around your QSR so you can send them alerts and offers.
  • Vehicle detection: AI identifies customers based on their license plate. 
  • Predictive analytics: AI uses customers’ mobile phones, loyalty accounts, or app data to recommend menu items and promos based on info like their past ordering behavior. 

personalized marketing communications

The Age of QSR AI is Just Beginning

It’s an incredibly exciting time for the QSR industry. New technology like food preparation robots and conversational AI is just beginning to sweep stores worldwide – with the global AI market expected to grow by 36% by 2030. 

Many businesses, like Lee’s Famous Chicken Recipe and Checkers and Rally’s, are gaining a competitive advantage by staying ahead of the AI adoption curve. 

Hi Auto is the market leader in conversational AI, with 10X more stores than any other solution. 

Hi Auto ensures you get the best out of AI – upgrading your drive-thru experience with the built-in upsell playbook, with a 94% accuracy rate and multilingual capabilities. 

Contact us to get started today. 

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